But the story of my train/bus/car travels over the summer is as follows:
Back in April/May some friends were pretty aware of my *ahem* then-traumatic experience with figuring out summer plans. I remember telling some close friends that I had run out of options and if anything good came from this summer, it was all God's doing and none of mine. Well, seeing how everything has turned out, it would be shallow of me to not tell what came about. And so I shall.
After my Spring Break trip to Nicaragua, I got it into my head that I wanted to do some kind of ministry over the summer rather than just make money or just add to my resume. As it was going, I was getting more stoked about working with a camp for the summer. I checked out a couple jobs that didn't work out for one reason or another. Mostly the issue was either dates or money. As the all-knowing almost-20-year old, I knew full well that I need something that pays. I wanted to serve, but it had to be convenient. Then it looked like everything would work out with the camp in CO. Well, you know the end of that story. I talked with my parents about it and my dad (being the prudent man he is) kept telling me to apply to some local places just so I'd have something nailed down. You know, a backup. Security blanket.
But something--whether it was God or my own discontent--was telling me that there are better options than spending the summer around a bunch of angsty, gossipy, melancholy kids (as at my old lifeguarding job) where I only feel overwhelmed and burdened and the only motivation is the money. But what else do I have? The only option that seemed open was somethign Sarah Edmondson recommended back in March. It was a camp in Tennessee that wouldn't even pay me. When she had told me about it, I (arrogantly) brushed the idea aside, quite certain that I could find something that fit my own plans and needs more fully. But for all my rationalizing, God seemed to say, "Okay, if you think you know what you want from this summer, you have to trust that I'll provide." So I called up the camp director. Not only did we have a great interview, but we got to talking about politics...yeah, he majored in government and economics. It was a match made in heaven. He pretty much offered me the job on the spot. (And it did indeed turn out beautifully.)
And so I made plans to go to Sevierville, Tennessee for the month of July to work at Camp Arrowwood. It's a small program with about 30 total staff members, 12 of whom are high schoolers who would be under my authority. (How that all turned out is a story in itself.) Unknown, unusual, unfamiliar...and I knew completely that something really good would come from it.
Oh, and the money bit. Well, had I taken the job in CO, I probably would have come out with about a third of what I usually make over a summer, but I thought back in April, "I'll take the hit. It's ministry after all." Mmhmm. That was before I took the unpaid job. So even up to the very last day at TU, I didn't know where the cash would come from. But as I was driving home with my mom after commencement, she very randomly suggested that I contact Uncle Ray and Aunt Dorothy, my grandparents' age-old friends who live on a farm in Louisiana. Apparently they hire a couple college kids to work every summer. Actually, Mom was totally joking when she suggested it and didn't even think I'd be interested. Somehow though, when I called about it Ray and Dorothy were absolutely stoked to have me. Heck, they hardly had enough work to keep me busy (they usually hire boys because it's mostly manual labor), but they were willing to find tasks in order to make it worth my while. Honestly, I don't know more generous and godly people. So I got to move to Wisner, LA for a couple weeks in June. (That's the way to experience the South--become part of the community. It's a beautiful and unique thing, let me tell you.) And for all the worry I went through back in the Spring, because of Ray and Dorothy's generosity, in only a couple weeks I made just as much money as I might have if Colorado had worked out.
So I learned and experienced so much more than I ever planned. I lived in Louisiana and Tennessee, visited five new states, met a slew of great and godly people, and came to a new knowledge of trust in God's provision. The question floated in my head, "What if...what if I have to be willing to take big risks and embrace my finiteness and have no expectations or requirements of the people in my life? And what if I throw away my security-blanket conceptions and plans to live out my calling in a real way, trusting that my ultimate satisfaction as a human being and a Christian is not realized in mere personal comfort??" (This was so compelling that I'm actually changing my major to philosophy. That's another story once again.)
I can't believe the last seven months have gone by so quickly. Two weeks in Louisiana and five weeks in Tennessee were absolutely amazing. I've experienced so much, met so many wonderful people, and I've seen God in so much of it. A quick summary of the highlights:
There's no way to experience someplace new than by just throwing yourself into their culture and community. Wisner, LA was the perfect place to do that, too. I learned about farm life. No, really. Irrigating, checking cotton plants for bugs, bringing lunch and dinner to the guys in the field, praying for rain...it's simple, but satisfying. The community in Wisner reminded me of a big family. When there are fewer than 2000 people in your town and most of them also go to your church, you don't really get to choose your friends; they're kind of forced upon you. And you do everything with them and get over your differences and grow closer in your struggles. There's always someone to help when you're in trouble, always someone willing to lend a hand or share a meal or run an errand for you. Very different from the suburbs, unfortunately.
Aaaahh. Mountains. Oh, God, but mountains make the Creator so much more real in day-to-day life. And by mountains, I don't just mean rock and cloud and tree and stream. Mountains have become a metaphor to me--they mean the great men and women with whom God joins us together in order to teach us more about Himself. Jonathan, Claire, David, Will, Seth...those are the mountains of Tennessee that I miss the most. I stand on their shoulders, I share in their joys and struggles, I join them in prayer. And like when you summit a peak, you see everything so differently, so clearly.
Camp was so much greater than I could have anticipated. (Actually, I rather thought it would turn out that way. Everyone asked me the first week or so if the ranch and life at camp was what I was expecting...but I never had specific expectations because I knew God would give me something that was simply good.) The people I met and grew close to were beyond anything I could have hoped for.
So that's the long and short of it (more long than short.) But I knew that God would work something out--and the only thing I can do is share what He's given me because I know in perfect certainty that it was none of my doing.
Bro. Ray Newcomb, a Tribute
4 weeks ago